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Question of the day

Sunday, May 29, 2011

* Scott Reeder is not happy that the pension bill excludes judges from paying higher contribution rates

A circuit judge in Illinois earns $170,000 — just $7,000 less than Gov. Pat Quinn.

As the Illinois Policy Institute pointed out last year, that’s $39,855 more than a circuit judge in Iowa, $43,908 more than a circuit judge in Indiana and $49,701 more than one in Missouri.

So with judges making so much, why would the sponsors of the bill keep judges out of the mix?

I’m no wizard at math but even I know that a judge who earns $170,000 a year puts a greater strain on the state’s pension system than a teacher making $40,000.

Shouldn’t they at least be paying the same percentage of their paychecks toward retirement?

Illinois judges currently make less than most first year associates at big Chicago law firms. Most surrounding states like Iowa don’t have a wealthy big city like we do.

But that last line, about judges paying the same percentage as teachers, ignores the fact that judges currently pay 11 percent of their salaries toward their pensions, while teachers pay about 9 percent. A floor amendment which would include the judges requires them to pay 34 percent of their salaries to the pension fund, compared to 14 percent for teachers. And many teachers union locals have already negotiated away their currently required 9 percent contribution. The school districts pick up the whole tab.

Then again, I can see the point he makes. Let’s discuss.

* The Question: Should judges be included in the pension reform bill? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please. Thanks.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Joe_P - Sunday, May 29, 11 @ 3:09 pm:

    Shift all the costs to the workers except judges? With NO increase in pension funding? I have a few questions. What kind of people are funding the lobbyists and the media campaigns that paint public employees as undeserving and Unions as the bad guys? In Illinois, they are the kind of people who have $20+ million dollar incomes and $20 million dollar retirement packages. With Corporate after tax profits at an a time high and Warren Buffet himself asking why his tax rate is lower than the tax rate paid by his secretary or maid, I think we need to be asking a lot more questions……..So Let’s get started!
    What are their goals?
    The short term goal is to get the citizens to ask; Why should public employees or Union workers have any pension at all?!?
    Persuading the citizens to ask this question turns the middle class against itself. Divide and conquer, not exactly a new tactic…..
    If this media influence did not exist, I believe the citizens would be asking; Why can’t we all have a pension? Before you laugh at that question, there are well managed and well funded pension plans out there (99% funded, solid for over 50 years!). If you are interested, E-mail me for more info (
    There is a fundamental difference in these two questions…..
    The first question (Why should they have a pension?) divides and weakens us, as we tear each other down.
    The second question (Why can’t we all have a pension?) unites us and strengthens us as we work together. (The lobbyists DO NOT want this to happen).

  2. - Joe_P - Sunday, May 29, 11 @ 3:10 pm:

    (cont.)Their ultimate goal……. With after tax Corporate profits at an all time high and $20+ million dollar incomes and $20 million dollar retirement packages all they could want is more. Instead of raising taxes on those that can afford it, they want the middle class pick up the bill. They know exactly how to get more and how to keep it. For chump change, a media campaign and some double talk, they can divide us so they can stick us with the bills…….it is a well known corporate strategy called “externalizing”. That is, make someone else pay your bills to increase your profits and bonuses. GE made $14.2 Billion and paid no taxes. Teams of lobbyists and accountants make sure they pay no taxes by “externalizing”. The top 5 oil companies made 36 Billion in the first 3 months of this year. Their lobbyists made sure that congress did not take away the taxpayer funded subsidies they get (because that would be un-American). They do not want to lose the existing “externalization”.
    “The result of NOT participating in politics is that you end up being governed by those who are only interested in conducting public affairs for corporate advantage” JMP Sounds like it is time for us to start paying attention and….participate!

  3. - wordslinger - Sunday, May 29, 11 @ 3:14 pm:

    Sure, why not? Thirty-four percent is too steep, but I don’t see any reason not to put it in line with others.

    I haven’t noticed any lack of bigfoot lawyers who don’t want to be a judge for at least a while. My lawyer was a judge for 25 years before he went back into private practice.

  4. - x ace - Sunday, May 29, 11 @ 3:50 pm:

    Answered No because think the whole reform bill is wrong as to existing employees. Answer would change to Yes if a workable and legal plan were presented.

    Possible reason for exclusion at this time is the Judges have litigated and won in the past on compensation issues and can be expected to do so again. If Judges included everybody else might be able to ride their coattails to victory in Court.

    Without the Judges the other employees will have to pursue their own suit. May still be a winner.

  5. - Jackster - Sunday, May 29, 11 @ 3:51 pm:

    If judes are included, it would be a conflict of interest to rule on anything related to the pension bill. The issue would be directly and personnaly related to the ruling judge.

  6. - DoubleD - Sunday, May 29, 11 @ 3:57 pm:

    All must be involved…it is a terrible bill but that doesn’t give reason to exclude any state employees.

  7. - 47th Ward - Sunday, May 29, 11 @ 4:10 pm:

    I think the judges themselves, if they were being completely objective about this, would realize that they need to be included to acheive equal protection/equal treatment under the law.

    Is the 11% threshold they currently pay equal to their cost of their pension? If it isn’t, they should be excluded from the solution where members pay the costs of their plan.

    Otherwise, someone might sue (hopefully in federal court).

  8. - Coach - Sunday, May 29, 11 @ 4:33 pm:

    Yes, of course. It’s a matter of simple fairness. Judges pay into one of the state’s five pension systems - just like thousands of other public workers - and there’s no good reason (except politics) to exclude them from this.

    Regarding conflict of interest, if you follow the logic of the point made by Jackster, then the GA could never pass any legislation affecting judicial pensions. How could that be?

    Plus, Supreme Court judges have broad discretion over whether to recuse themselves from a case involving a conflict. It’s up to each individual judge to make the decision for himself or herself.

    Remember the Supreme Court case concerning the mandatory retirement age for judges? Everybody knew that Justice Freeman had a direct interest in the outcome of that decision. Not only did Freeman not recuse himself; Freeman actually authored the decision - thereby allowing himself to stay on the bench!

  9. - Retired Non-Union Guy - Sunday, May 29, 11 @ 4:35 pm:

    Voted yes. Judges are part of the current system(s) and will remain so. If payments have to go up in that system, then they should pay.

    If the logic of excluding judges is that the existing judges would not be impartial, then one can only draw the conclusion that the current legislature thinks all the judges are either unethical or crooks (like themselves? … OK, cheap shot but that is the perception I get sitting out here). If the legislature truly believes Illinois judges can’t be impartial, then say in the bill that any legal action must be taken in federal court and that the legislature will abide by the federal court system’s decision(s). I realize the State legislature isn’t going to cede control to the feds, but that is an answer. I’d love to see it in federal court; the State constitutional language is an exact copy of federal contract language … as much as anything is a “sure thing” in a court, it should be a slam dunk win for existing employees and retirees.

    As Rich has pointed out a few times, the State retirement funds have been this underfunded (and more) at lot of the past 60 years. They’ve still managed to make every payment. It’s not a crisis in the sense they are running out of money next month or next year. It is a fact the State pension funds are not fully funded *if* the State were to use the same accounting and reporting practices required for private sector pension funds. But States aren’t required to use the same criteria.

  10. - The Whole Truth - Sunday, May 29, 11 @ 4:50 pm:

    Cuts have to fair across the board to be accepted. If the percentages the rest of the retirement systems are to charge members reflect the cost to maintain the system, then the cost to maintain the Judicial Retirement system should likewise be reflected in the rates for that membership. To do otherwise we can only assume the taxpayer will be footing the difference. Singling out one group for “elite” status perpetuates the mindset that got us into this mess in the first place. Paying one’s fair share used to be the given we all operated under and has to be again.

  11. - Bil - Sunday, May 29, 11 @ 4:55 pm:

    If you are going have pension reform it should be for everyone. Judges and Politicians included.

  12. - Oh dear - Sunday, May 29, 11 @ 5:10 pm:

    Judges have additional constitutional arguments to make that others don’t. Having said that, a reasonable increase is one thing– but 34%? That is outrageous and any objective person should agree.

  13. - titan - Sunday, May 29, 11 @ 5:12 pm:

    Judges should be included (although this bill doesn’t fix the problem )

  14. - Oh dear - Sunday, May 29, 11 @ 5:14 pm:

    I read Reader’s entire article. It is filled with so many factual mistakes and analytical errors he ought to be ashamed.

  15. - Oh dear - Sunday, May 29, 11 @ 5:26 pm:

    Coach, all judges had an interest in that case, not just Freeman. They are all getting older you know.

  16. - steve schnorf - Sunday, May 29, 11 @ 5:43 pm:

    I think it is a good idea. With the judges not affected, they can rule the way they should without being accused of self-interest, and they should all clearly see that if this precedent is allowed, the GA could come after them next. This way, they can draw the line nice and bright before they are attacked.

  17. - A Former Bar Association Officer - Sunday, May 29, 11 @ 5:51 pm:

    One flaw in your argument, Rich. Most Cook County judges couldn’t get jobs as first year associates at big law firms. Most Cook County judges probably get pay raises, (or at least don’t take big cuts), when they become judges. Because most Cook County judges are loyal political supportives — or relatives — of important politicans.

    Very few of the big Chicago law firm lawyers ever become judges. It’s not because they are not interested — many would do it (out of both interest and a desire for public service). It’s either because they don’t have the clout, or they don’t want to make the uh, “compromises,” necessary to be a judge in Illinois.

  18. - JustMe - Sunday, May 29, 11 @ 5:59 pm:

    Absolutely not. Whatever else it might be, the pension reform bill is a pay cut. You can cut the pay of most state workers, but you can’t cut the pay of sitting judges (or of legislators after the start of the term, for that matter). It would be a total waste of time.

  19. - The Dark Horse - Sunday, May 29, 11 @ 6:13 pm:

    Justme, the question is whether a judge beings a new “term” when she is retained for purposes of the constitutional protections that exist for judges or, rather, whether retention is a continuation of the prior term.

  20. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Sunday, May 29, 11 @ 6:22 pm:

    Excluding judges is an admission that there are Constitutional grounds for striking down this law.

    Not amending it may have been the politically smart thing to do, but guess what: you already filed the amendment, I think they know what’s coming.

  21. - Earl 'Duke' Filskov - Sunday, May 29, 11 @ 7:21 pm:

    They did not include the judges so they would not face a conflict when the bill goes to court if it passes. They are just trying to slant things their way as much as possible.

  22. - Ouch! - Sunday, May 29, 11 @ 7:49 pm:

    I’d like to throw my pension money into “Ralston Purina” stock cause after the the rich and powerful are done with us (State Employees)a lot of us will be eating their products. Hopefully, with that wise investment, I’ll be able to retire at the end of the year. Anybody know any good Vets?

  23. - blogman - Sunday, May 29, 11 @ 8:11 pm:

    34% of $170000 is $5000 a month or $60000 per year! Who else is being asked to pay that? They will be able to raise it every 3 years. There is a seperate constutional protection that prevents the compensation for judges from being deminished. This law is not even close to being constitutional when it comes to the judges.

  24. - just sayin' - Sunday, May 29, 11 @ 8:26 pm:

    I can’t think of a single valid argument as to why they shouldn’t be included. Seems like a nobrainer.

  25. - Nice kid - Sunday, May 29, 11 @ 9:56 pm:

    Just Sayin: read the Illinois Constitution and maybe you will come up with one. I’m just thinkin’.

  26. - Ronin2 - Sunday, May 29, 11 @ 10:53 pm:

    It is legal bribery to exclude Judges. The pols select the Judges and the people elect them. You can’t be a Judge without the pols selecting you. Lawyers line up around the block to be anointed a Judge. There will be no shortage of qualified lawyers seeking judicial appointments if they are included in so called pension reform. This is just legal bribery and corruption.

  27. - Norseman - Sunday, May 29, 11 @ 11:20 pm:

    Just thinkin that I read the constitution to say that pensions can’t be diminished either and it doesn’t seem to matter.

  28. - Norseman - Sunday, May 29, 11 @ 11:33 pm:

    Besides, both the legislative and judicial branches have similar prohibitions against diminishing pay during term in office. So you can’t say it protects one, but not the other. The only difference between the two is that not all judges will be affected right away. The only reason that it will hit all the legislators is that the remap has them all running next year.

  29. - Anonymous - Monday, May 30, 11 @ 10:45 am:

    I voted no because they want to jack up the judges contributions to 34%. That is absolutely outrageous. Think about it. A thind of your paycheck gets deducted for your pension, and then, you get deductions for tax and everything else. Why would any talented attorney give up their practice for that? If the GA wants to see the quality of judges go into the toilet then they will pass the bill with judges contributing 34%.

    With that said, I think this whole thing with the judges is simply a ploy to kill the bill. I think Cross realized that he doesnt have the votes so he decided hes gonna at least give the impression that hes “cracking down” on government pensions.

  30. - Monique - Monday, May 30, 11 @ 9:52 pm:

    What about college presidents who earn an excessive salary

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

* Reader comments closed until Tuesday
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